BBC Spokesperson : “Noel was clearly not aware of any other connotation of this term and expanded his question immediately to ask the interviewee how she managed to fit watching television and relaxing with all her school and volunteering work.”
This is the kind of apologetic press statement that you hope will never have to be published in your behalf. Making some sort of erratically inappropriate comment on-air is the supreme fear hard-wired into the brain of any broadcaster. Having apologies like this one issued on your behalf is the pulsing, inescapable dread that lives within you. Particularly so, when, in the context of the apology, the term ‘interviewee’ refers to ‘a 17-year-old Northern Irish schoolgirl’ and the referenced ‘term’ that the presenter was ignorant of the connotations of was ‘Netflix and chill’.
This was the unfortunate situation that Noel Thompson, a BBC presenter on Good Morning Ulster, found himself in while interviewing a 17-year-old schoolgirl about her volunteering work. While she was describing the work she was engaged with for Women’s Aid, concerning issues such as domestic violence, as well as her work for Children In Need, which has led to her being the latest recipient of the Diana award, Noel Thompson, in seeming astonishment at her busy schedule interjected by saying, “Do you even recognise the term Netflix and chill?”
As it swiftly became apparent that the 61-year-old presenter was not using her as a sounding board to get to grips with some new terminology he had no concept of, and was in fact asking her if she had any time in her busy schedule for ‘Netflix and chill’, a profound and sense of awkwardness permeated the studio; she hesitantly replied, “umm yeah?”. Mr. Thompson then immediately showcased his sheer obliviousness to the subtext of the term by saying “I’m just wondering with your schoolwork and all that other stuff [the ‘all that other stuff’ being the extensive charity work she was detailing which had seen her awarded with a uniquely prestigious national award.], do you have down time? Do you just sit around chatting to your friends, watching a bit of telly?”
While the rest of the interview was inevitably trapped in the wake of the awkwardness engendered by the comment they stoically battled on.
It is now perhaps worth imagining a few hypothetical situations that could possibly arise should Mr. Thompson once more unintentionally deploys an incongruous phrase in a very contrived way that unfortunately has a subtextually lewd meaning. We should brace ourselves for such possible occurrences:
1) While chatting to a professional musician whose wind instruments have fallen into disrepair after accidentally being stored incorrectly at a rainy festival: “Are you comfortably with a rusty trombone?”
2) While interviewing someone on the perks of having a close acquaintance in high-places: “So should I get myself a friend with benefits?”
3) On observing two musicians, having performed a live song for the show, and fist-bumping in celebration: “See, I’ve never been comfortable with fisting. I suppose it’s a young person’s game.”
4) During an interview with a man whose large and cumbersome hands he imagines might make it difficult for interracting with small animals: “Do you have any issues with heavy-petting?”
He made the blunder on the morning show on 30 August, which can be heard here. Despite the already insurmountable evidence that this was little more than an innocuous misunderstanding, the greatest piece of proof corroborating Noel Thompson as someone who’s simply endearingly out of touch with the modern world is that his Twitter profile picture is sideways.